Easter Seals Study Sheds Light on Sibling Caregivers

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Today, Easter Seals released its Siblings Study to call attention to the experiences of caregivers as well as the services and supports families need. The Study, conducted by Ipsos and made possible by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), aimed to better understand the implications of adults who have siblings with developmental disabilities and gauge perceptions of these sibling relationships compared to those of the general public, or adults who have siblings but without disabilities.

"The findings will help us shape our supports for families caring for someone with a disability and raise greater awareness about the challenges caregivers face," says Patricia Wright, Easter Seals National Director of Autism Services. "There are more than 65 million* caregivers in the United States and the Siblings Study will paint a better picture of their needs, especially of those who are caring for a sibling with a disability."

Siblings: Partners for Life 
Sibling relationships are our longest-lasting relationships. Twenty-three percent of adults assume or will assume (nearly one third) the role of primary care provider for their adult brother or sister with a disability. While most respondents—eight in ten—compared to the six in ten of general respondents convey their sibling with a disability had a positive and unique impact on their life, they admit it's not always easy. Future caregivers don't feel emotionally or financially prepared for the demands of this role.

Family Dynamics 
Through the Siblings Study, Easter Seals found siblings who have a brother or sister with a disability are already involved in their sibling's day-to-day life more than the general public. That is, 80 percent have a close relationship with their sibling with a disability and this relationship enhances their life— teaching them patience, understanding, compassion and providing perspective. Only sixty percent of the general public feels the same way.
However, the Study found that having a sibling with a developmental disability can negatively impact the cohesiveness of the family, parental relationships, interactions with extended family or quality of life. Three quarters of primary caregivers say that sometimes their relationship with their sibling puts a strain on their family life and that it's difficult to balance their own needs and those of their family with those of their sibling.

Looking to the future, six in ten sibling caregivers wish they knew more about how to plan for their sibling's care and finances and worry about the cost of caring for their sibling with a disability needs. Few are involved in a support group, although they would like to know more about them.

MassMutual Offers a Solution 
With the help of Study sponsor and Easter Seals corporate partner MassMutual, Easter Seals can help these siblings take advantage of the various resources and support groups available to them--supports that would likely help them better care for their sibling, while juggling their own needs and those of other family members.

MassMutual is committed to serving people living with disabilities through its exclusive SpecialCare program, an innovative solution that gives families with individuals with special needs access to information, specialists, and financial strategies that can help improve their quality of life.

Easter Seals will use these findings to raise awareness of and advocate for the life-long services and supports families and caregivers desperately need—working to lessen disparities and bridge the gap for people living with developmental disabilities across the country.

To download the key findings and full report, visit easterseals.com.